Ilka Stuhec continued her outstanding form by winning a World Cup downhill race on Saturday for her fourth victory so far in a remarkable season. The 26-year-old Slovenian finished .28 seconds ahead of Austrian Cornelia Huetter and .32 clear of Italian Soffia Goggia — who is also enjoying a breakthrough season. Stuhec had never finished higher than fourth in a race prior to this year, but this was her third success in downhill and her second straight win after clinching Friday’s Alpine combined.
“It was really bumpy. I told myself, ‘just push, push, push,'” Stuhec said. “I tried to keep the (racing) line but I was really tired. I did enough.” Goggia also had a career best of fourth before this season began, and now has six podiums in eight races during this campaign. She was also third in Friday’s race and strengthened her grip on second in the overall standings behind American slalom specialist Mikaela Shiffrin.
“Everyone asks me about the overall, but actually it’s not my goal,” the 24-year-old Goggia said. “Maybe when I was a child and I was dreaming about having this crystal globe in my hands.”
Still, Goggia is confident that she can turn her podium finishes into wins. “I still haven’t found my limit yet on the downhill, I think I have something more to give,” she said. “I’m happy with the final result but not so satisfied with my skiing. I was pretty slow on the upper part.” Three Italians, including two sisters, completed the top six: Nadia Fanchini was fourth ahead of Johanna Schnarf and Elena Fanchini But the day belonged to Stuhec. She was ahead of Huetter on all the time splits as she powered down the Oreiller-Killy course in bright morning sunshine.
Only .07 ahead on the fourth split, Stuhec then accelerated away on the bottom section to beat Huetter, who now has 10 career podiums. Stuhec knew she was quick, but even the result surprised her as she put her hands over her face, then sank onto her back, shaking her head in disbelief. “It was a surprise for me. Coming down and seeing the No. 1 (on the screen) I just didn’t get it at first,” Stuhec said. “I thought I’d made too many mistakes.”
Her two other wins in downhill were both in Lake Louise earlier this month. It has been a remarkable turnaround. Prior to this year, Stuhec had finished only twice in the top five, with fourth in super-G three years ago. Meanwhile, defending World Cup overall champion Lara Gut of Switzerland failed to finish for the second straight race, skiing off course after losing balance on the top section. She was .03 seconds faster than Huetter at the first split but then lost time to drift .35 behind on the next.
Then, just like during the slalom run in Friday’s Alpine combined race, Gut went out. “There are days when you feel well and you ski well, and there are some when you just cannot bring it all together,” said Gut, who explained that a bump on the course led to her mishap. “That’s how it goes.” Gut came here with a great chance of overtaking Shiffrin. But she remains 105 points behind and needs to pick up some points in Sunday’s super-G.
“I shouldn’t start to have doubts,” said Gut, who was won a giant slalom and a super-G race this season. “Tomorrow is another day and I’m going to go for it.” But she faces a strong challenge. When Gut won the super-G in Lake Louise earlier this month, Goggia was third and Stuhec was fifth.
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